Red ink: How the U.S. risks falling off a fiscal cliff

By Nicholas L. Waddy

No one questions that Bidenomics is the greatest form of -nomics the Biden family has ever been associated with – unless, of course, Hunter’s brainchild, “prostitutonomics,” counts. Be that as it may, we do have a serious economic/fiscal problem in this country: Federal spending is way, way up, and revenue is simultaneously down. Now, sometimes, when there’s a world war, a pandemic, or a recession/depression, these things happen. This year, though, nothing of the kind occurred, and yet the deficit is expected to double! For 2023 we will spend roughly $2 trillion more than we take in.

It’s tempting to blame this calamity on … Bidenomics. Indeed, Joe Biden and his Democratic cronies in Congress took a federal budget that was already massively bloated because of COVID extravagance, and they decided to overstimulate it with additional spending in areas as diverse as infrastructure, health care, defense, “green energy” and student loan forgiveness. The result is a sea of red ink, higher interest rates and a fiscal prognosis that is merely bad in allegedly good economic times, and will be downright apocalyptic if the much-ballyhooed recession ever materializes.

Theoretically, our brave Republican representatives and senators are scrambling to plug these fiscal leaks and get us back on solid ground (to mix metaphors, unless you happen to be Dutch), but in reality neither party is prepared to risk committing electoral suicide by suggesting serious cuts to entitlement programs, like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, by suspending interest payments on the debt, or by attacking waste in the defense budget. That leaves “discretionary non-defense” spending as the only arena for cuts, and this means, in turn, that only about one-seventh of the total U.S. federal budget is in play. Six-sevenths is untouchable – and, in a presidential election year, unmentionable as well. That hardly bodes well for our long-term fiscal health.

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Ironies abound in politics, as in life, however, and two immediately suggest themselves: First, there is little or no sign that voters currently connect their struggles with high inflation and high interest rates with government profligacy, even though there most definitely is a connection.

And, two, young voters, who have the most to lose in the long term (mainly because they have a “long term”), seem the least concerned with excessive deficits and uncontrolled federal spending. Consider that Americans 18-24 voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in 2020: 65-31%. American politics has settled into a nice groove, in fact, in which the most elderly voters are the “reddest,” most conservative and most deficit-averse, whereas young voters are the “bluest,” most progressive and most eager for new federal “investments,” especially but not exclusively in themselves. Virtually no one among millennials and Gen Z seems to have considered that the massive amounts the government is spending now, largely on the elderly, will inexorably push up the debt, on which today’s whippersnappers will be making interest payments ad infinitum. On the contrary, younger voters, like frat brothers of yore, keep saying to their favorite Dem/progressive politicians, “Please, Sir (or Ma’am), may I have another?”

Don’t expect Joe Biden to admit that we face any kind of a fiscal quandary, of course, especially given that his time horizon is the definition of “short.” All he cares about is whether the Dems can spend their way to victory in 2024. If they can, then most Dems assume that the GOP will simply self-destruct or become unelectable, or both, the Supreme Court will be packed or cowed or sidelined, and, in the fullness of time, the country’s fiscal and economic oblivion won’t matter, because “the right people” will oversee it and make sure that it works out to their advantage.

Sad to say, but all these assumptions are probably correct.

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